This is the fourth part of a five-part series in which I expound one card I haven't played from each Magic release that ever introduced new cards, in chronological order by set release. That means there are three other articles before this one, consisting almost entirely of me talking about cards I've never actually played with, going from the beginning of the game to Magic 2011. Wow, that's a lot of words! You can read them if you don't have anything better to do.
Scars of Mirrodin
Kuldotha Forgemaster: For this set, I initially listed Ratchet Bomb. Then I remembered that it was in one of the Event decks I played in those forum games against Spiderman. Then I wondered if that counted. Then I remembered that I think I actually did play it somewhere else at some point, although I forget where or whose deck I was piloting. Not my own. I think I’ll disqualify Ratchet Bomb though, just to be safe. And really, Kuldotha Forgemaster might be a more interesting card anyway. It sees play in Legacy MUD decks, but those are uncommon and I haven’t ever played it in my testing for competitive Legacy, nor in a casual deck. Kuldotha Forgemaster strikes me as a strong candidate for an updated broken tribal constructs deck. Oops, did I say that? What I meant to say was that Kuldotha Forgemaster looks like good, clean fun.
Spine of Ish Sah: This set represented the peak of Al0ysiusHWWW’s return to Magic. We were roommates at the time, and he was experimenting with lots of cool stuff using cards from Scars of Mirrodin Block. He was reconnecting with old friends who still played Magic or were getting back into it. So while on the one hand I was swamped with schoolwork, I got more experience with this set than I did with most “Modern” sets. I loved it. Big fan of Mirrodin Besieged. Spine of Ish Sah is excellent. I’d like to exploit it with some big mana artifact deck and a sacrifice loop.
Phyrexian Obliterator: “I don't know if any of you reads mtgsalvation's spoiler, but there's a card on it that caught my attention: a 5/5 with trample for BBBB. So, you ask, what is it's downside? There has to be some major drawback like Juzam had, or Negator, you say? Well yes sir, there is a drawback! Whenever a source deals damage to it, that source's controller sacrifices that many permanents. So let's hope that that is some translation error, because this drawback isn't much of a drawback. This card is really pushing the power level a few steps up. Sure, 'goyf is a 7/8 for 1G, but at least it doesn't have any other benefit. When I started playing Juzam was of a mythical power level. By now it has been surpassed, but this new card, well, this power creep just sickens me. It seems to me as if Wizards has decided that there were a few cards that shouldn't have been printed because of power issues (the power9+1, duals, yawgwin), but all other old cards should be relegated to cat box filler. Stupid. This idea struck me some time ago when I was building a second EDH deck. Where are all the old cards? It (R/G Ulasht) has Nevinyrral's disk, Sylvan Library and Taiga, but all other cards are relatively new.” —Shabbaman, after Phyrexian Obliterator was first revealed to the world.
Chaos Warp: I own all of the Commander precon decks, and if I’d played them much, I wouldn’t be able to come up with any cards for these releases. I think most of these “sets” introduced 50-something new cards, with the rest of the decks consisting of reprints. Well, they count. And while I have played with some of the decks and some of the cards from the decks, I think I’ve found something interesting from every iteration that I have yet to actually play. I’ve seen Chaos Warp used to great effect. Before the stupid tuck rules change, it could get rid of a dangerous commander for a while. It could serve as enchantment removal in a pinch (something sorely lacking for red decks). It could be used with control-swapping cards for pure value (i.e. Gilded Drake).
Grand Abolisher: I do own some M12 cards, but I guess I didn’t pick them up until after I already had cards from M13, M14, and M15. This and Seventh Edition were the closest to being core sets that I “missed” because I was not focused on new Magic set releases at the time and neither were the people I was hanging out with. However, a few years after this set was old news, due to a confluence of circumstances, I think I played with just about every good card in Magic 2012 except one. So it’s got to be Grand Abolisher. Hatebears aren’t necessarily my favorite way to play Magic, but I think I appreciate them.
Memory’s Journey: Innistrad is notorious for being among the most power-packed sets ever and is a kind of fan-favorite, often cited as the best-designed Magic set so far. I like it too. The resurgence of Al0ysiusHWWW, myself, and a couple of our friends as an attempt at a competitive Legacy playgroup/team/testing center was falling by the wayside when Innistrad was new, and while I did try to keep up on Magic, I was probably near my busiest with school after Innistrad was released. So, as with many other sets, I did eventually play with most of the strong and famous cards, but only ever saw others wielding some totally respectable cards. Many years earlier, I participated in a rather silly “casual tournament” at a friend’s house. It was a weird affair and I’m a bit surprised that it seemed to work out with everyone having a good time. We didn’t run it very well and I don’t think it was fair, so I’d be wary of that sort of thing these days. Anyway, I won in the end. I was impressed by a deck I saw, piloted by the best player in the group. It was, I would later realize, probably a straight-up netdeck from Zvi Moshowitz’s Turboland Oath deck. Regardless of how one might interpret a seasoned player bringing a top-tier Extended tournament deck to an impromptu kitchen-table “tournament” (it’s understandable that he wanted to win, but he was also pretty much a shark about it) or how one might interpret my own deck usage in the same event (my decks weren’t really tournament-caliber, but there’s a reason I won the whole thing, even against my friend with the Extended tournament decks), my main takeaway from all of this was how impressed I was with the card Krosan Reclamation. Love that thing. When I saw Memory’s Journey for the first time, I immediately thought, “Ooh, this could be better than Krosan Reclamation for any deck with blue mana.” I’d have thought that I’d use Memory’s Journey. I was half-convinced that it showed up in the CPA forum Event Deck games against Spiderman, but it looks like it’s not in those decks. To this day, I own at least one deck with Krosan Reclamation. But nothing with Memory’s Journey. Not yet, anyway.
Increasing Vengeance: This set turns out to be a tough one. It’s smaller than Innistrad and I’ve played most of the cool stuff. I initially picked Hellrider, but I totally played that one in a forum game against Spiderman when I used the Gleeful Flames Event Deck. He killed it with Doom Blade right away, so it wasn’t a very memorable play, but it should definitely count. I guess my next selection would have to be Increasing Vengeance. I don’t remember ever seeing it in action, but it seems like a cool take on Fork. You can’t copy your opponent’s Counterspell or whatever, but it’s still useful, and later in the game that Flashback is a huge deal. My Burn decks have gone the direction of low cost, high efficiency (Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, Fireblast, etc.). So five mana wouldn’t make sense there. But for more of a big mana deck using direct damage, Increasing Vengeance would be excellent.
Bonfire of the Damned: Back in the Late Cretaceous, I used an obscure Ice Age spell called Meteor Shower. I used it a lot. It was in my very first attempt at a Burn deck and I was even casting Meteor Shower years later when I was in high school. I forget when I finally dropped the card. Probably 2003. So I was probably using Meteor Shower for about six years. Bonfire of the Damned is a similar card, which I find endearing. I might be the only one, though. The Miracle mechanic seems interesting on paper, but I do believe that its overall effect on the game has been detrimental. A lot of that, though, comes down to how stupid Terminus is. Bonfire of the Damned shouldn’t bear the weight of that criticism. It’s a cool card.
Maelstrom Wanderer: For those who weren’t paying close attention, the original Planechase decks in 2009 contained no new cards. Er, they contained the “plane” cards, which were new and were cards, but they contained no new Magic cards. Wait, I guess plane cards are obviously a part of Magic: the Gathering. Um, you know what I mean, right? The planes were new. The regular cards in the decks were all reprints and so the set doesn’t count for this article. Er, that’s not right either because Planechase was one of those products that contained “preview” cards, never seen before but included in the upcoming Standard set (Zendikar, in this case). Well, I already brought up how I was counting those as part of the Standard sets and, you know what? Forget it. Planechase doesn’t count. Planechase 2012 does. Deal with it. Planechase 2012? Good cards. Some stuff that influenced the competitive environment in Legacy. I played with those cards. Maelstrom Wanderer, though, I have not. Probably most relevant for Commander, but it looks like a fun card in general.
Liliana of the Dark Realms: For some of these sets, I’ve looked at the set list and either thought, “Yeah, I’ve played with all the good cards here; let’s track down something I missed out on.” For others, I think, “Wow, there’s a lot in this set I’ve never touched; which one’s the best?” M13 is different. Lots of great cards I’ve played with extensively, and also some really cool stuff that I have yet to ever use. My first inclination was Trading Post, one of the most iconic cards in the set. Hard to believe I’ve never played it. But then I thought about it some more and I was going to select Worldfire, inspired by all of the shenanigans demonstrated with the card by some of the Dan Freagarthach articles seen here at the CPA. Cathedral of War, Krenko’s Command, and Talrand, Sky Summoner would also be good candidates. I have mixed feeling about it, but I could even include Jace, Memory Adept. These are all just cards that I never played and that were new brand printings for this set. It’s also got some strong reprints and some great cards I happen to have put in my own decks. But I feel compelled to go with the only black planeswalker to do stuff with swamps. Takes me back to some of my old favorites, like I described in my Magic Memories threads for Corrupt and for Sengir Autocrat. I’m a sucker for “swamps matter” cards. I’m a sucker for black mana ramp. I know it’s not the strongest planeswalker card out there or even the strongest Liliana planeswalker card out there. But for my tastes, it’s probably the most appealing. With how long this card has been out, it’s a bit odd that I never managed to play it.
Return to Ravnica
Pack Rat: I was not paying very much attention to Magic when Return to Ravnica came out. This was definitely another one where I was focused on school. Looking back at CPA posts, it seems like no one else on the site was doing much with Return to Ravnica when it was new. I vaguely remember thinking something about how the creatures were stronger than the old Ravnica Block sets, but the noncreature spells were lackluster. I know others pointed that out as well. Pack Rat was one of the most powerful cards in Return to Ravnica, something that defined the set. I witnessed it taking over games on several occasions. Since I’ve never used it myself, it seems like the obvious choice for the set.
Consuming Aberration: Over the years, I’ve used most of the cards from Gatecrash that appeal to me. There are some very good ones that added new and interesting options for tournament decks and for casual decks, but I can’t select them for this article. Digging a little deeper, Consuming Aberration is a strong card for blue/black control, which is one of my favorite things. When I first saw it, I compared it to Guiltfeeder as a kill condition for a mill-based deck. But Consuming Aberration serves a very different role. Even outside of a dedicated milling deck, this thing gets big quickly. It serves as a milling engine in its own right. Its size can let it play defense reasonably well. It can help control the board by forcing chump blocks. Having seen it in action, I realized that my initial comparison to Guiltfeeder missed the nuances. The pool of options for a blue/black mill deck is deep, so I’m not even sure that if I built one, I’d use Consuming Aberration. But I’d strongly consider it.
Voice of Resurgence: Frankly, Selesnya has always been my least favorite guild. Dragon’s Maze is an awkward set that tries to shove all ten Ravnica guilds into the same package. I opened Voice of Resurgence in a booster pack and I could have thrown it into a deck, I guess. Would have, if I’d been building a Selesnya deck. I’m not especially disappointed for never having played it. But I’m selecting it because it is, by far, the strongest card in Dragon’s Maze I’ve never played with. It’s good. Really good. Almost good enough to make me want to play Selesnya.
Strionic Resonator: M14 came out right around the time I was finally getting my degree (July of 2013 and not 2014 at all, as that lying set name trend was/is the system). So I finally started getting more experience with new sets as they came out. On top of that, this was the first set since Planeshift where I’d actually purchased and opened booster packs. So the trend for a lot of this article finally breaks at this point. I was playing with M14 cards, the actual physical cards themselves, back when it was a current set. So I ended up using a lot of the cards from this set. I picked Rings of Brighthearth for Lorwyn, and I find myself picking a similar card here. As someone in the Gatherer comments noted, Rings of Brighthearth has a triggered ability that can copy activated abilities, while Strionic Resonator has an activated ability that can copy triggered abilities. I opened Strionic Resonator in a pack. I wanted to use it, but never ended up doing so. Of course, my favorite bit of trivia is that Strionic Resonator + Sands of Time can be used to generate infinite mana during your upkeep.
Prophet of Kruphix: I’ve always thought it was a shame that Theros didn’t have its mechanics pushed harder. It’s like WotC are afraid of making enchantment-based decks too good. There are some cool mechanics and I’ve played around with a lot of the set. I haven’t played a lot of blue/green decks (hence Memory’s Journey as my selection for Innistrad). Prophet of Kruphix just seems like a very potent utility creature, combining two useful effects on one card. Five mana for a 2/3 is otherwise lackluster, but those abilities could easily make up for it. I’ve never been disappointed by Seedborn Muse, and if I’m playing blue as well, it only makes sense to take advantage of the other ability. I find the Commander Rules Committee ban on this card to be strange, but my interest in it wouldn’t be for that format anyway.
Darksteel Mutation: So I’ve actually played with all five of the decks from this product. I was worried that I wasn’t going to find any new card from it that I hadn’t played. Darksteel Mutation is in three of the decks, but I think I somehow managed never to cast it. I haven’t used those decks since 2013, and it’s possible that I did use the card and subsequently forgot about it. But I don’t think so. It’s kind of a memorable card. I like it when cards like this get both offensive and defensive applications. It also seems pretty flavorful and fitting for a white enchantment. For similar mana costs, there are so many good white cards for dealing with creatures or protecting creatures that Darksteel Mutation doesn’t really stand out as something special for casual players. But it’s a nice card and I played with almost every card in this product, so it’s practically my only possible selection.
Born of the Gods
Phenax, God of Deception: I think Phenax was in my first Born of the Gods booster pack I opened. The set as a whole is notoriously weak. The official excuse seems to be that WotC were trying to mitigate the “third set problem” they’d had where the last set in a block tended to fall flat, so they were saving cool stuff for the third set in Theros Block, and the second set fell flat in its place. I mean, that narrative is largely consistent with what seems to have happened, but I don’t know. Maybe just don’t make bad sets at all? That seems like a better solution. But whatever, there are some good cards in Born of the Gods. Phenax is an easy selection for me here because I think it’s the coolest card in the set overall. Born of the Gods came out in 2014 and I just haven’t built the kind of deck that would use Phenax in the time since then.
Journey into Nyx
Master of the Feast: I feel like I’ve gotten to try out most of the cool stuff from Journey into Nyx. The best card that stands out as something I never touched is Master of the Feast, but I’m not even sure how much I like the card. I mean, a 5/5 flying demon for only 1BB is very good, and I’m not averse to playing such a creature with some manageable drawback. It’s one in the line of creatures following the tradition of Juzam Djinn. So that’s cool. I also have an interest in combo decks that take unusual approaches, and forcing opponents to draw cards has some potential. Underworld Dreams was the card that inspired this article, so yeah, my interest is piqued. Still, I’m hesitant on this one. If I’m beating my opponent down with a cheap 5/5, then pulling off some interaction exploiting my opponent’s card draws is probably not something I’m also doing in the same deck. And if I’m trying to kill my opponent with card draws, I probably want the most efficient tools for that job, which don’t come stapled to 5/5 demons. While I don’t immediately see a niche where I’d really want Master of the Feast in a deck, I do find it intriguing and wonder if I could find a way to make it shine.
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